Written by Michele Drake
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have probably noticed that our days are getting longer. As we move away from the winter solstice and into spring and summer, our days will lengthen. The changing of seasons may be noticeable in your cycles as well! All bodies operate on a Circadian Rhythm.
What Is The Circadian Rhythm?
The Circadian Rhythm is a natural, internal process based on the 24 hour light cycle that the sun creates. This rhythm influences:
- our sleep patterns,
- our hormonal health,
- our metabolism,
- and our immune systems, among others.
How Does It Work?
When light is detected by our retina, the retina sends a signal to the circadian oscillator in our brain. There, the hypothalamus receives the signal and communicates with other areas of the body.
The most obvious part affected is the pineal gland. When the pineal gland receives a message that light is decreasing, it begins to produce a hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin creates a drowsy feeling that lets us know it’s time for bed. Later, when the pineal gland gets the message that light is increasing, it suppresses melatonin, causing us to wake up.
How Does It Link To Our Hormones?
But it gets a little bit more complex when we are thinking about the reproductive system. Ovaries and testes also contain a circadian oscillator.
Those circadian oscillators control Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH). FSH stimulates the maturation of sex cells, which then produce testosterone or estrogen. LH provides the push our bodies need to release those sex cells (i.e. ovulation).
What's The Implication For Fertility?
One study showed that 45 minutes of daily, direct exposure to morning sunlight during the follicular phase (pre-ovulation phase) increased FSH and LH (both crucial for ovulation to occur).
If you’re interested in increasing your FSH and LH to stimulate ovulation, read on:
Most of us have a disrupted circadian rhythm. This can happen because of exposure to artificial light (hello screentime), especially after dark. But the circadian rhythm can also be disrupted by jet lag, working overnights, or an impaired sleep schedule (meaning you are getting less than 7 hours per night).
All of these disruptions can cause impaired:
- cognitive function,
- impaired memory,
- low energy,
- poor mood,
- inability to deal with stress,
- lower metabolism,
- dysregulation of blood sugar,
- and hormone imbalance.
How Do I Reset My Circadian Rhythm?
To reset your circadian rhythm, try to regulate your sleep cycle:
- Aim to go to bed and wake up near the same time each day.
- Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- If possible, limit your exposure to artificial light after sunset. (If that’s not possible, look into getting a pair of blue-light blocking glasses.)
- Try waking early and getting exposure to morning sunlight.
- Aim for a minimum of 30-60 minutes per day of exposure to sunlight. If you live somewhere very overcast (I am in the Pacific Northwest), you could consider using a UV light.
Michele Drake is a Fertility Awareness Educator and advocate with a passion for supporting people with their birth control choices. After witnessing many friends struggle to find their ideal method for avoiding pregnancy, balance their hormones, or achieve pregnancy, she was inspired to empower people with knowledge about their own bodies so that they may make informed choices about their health.
Michele offers one-on-one classes for natural birth control, conception, menstrual wellness, and achieving hormonal balance. She is also donation-based distance birth control doula support. You can find her through her website or over on Instagram.